Crazy for You. Music & Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, Book by Ken Ludwig. Chichester Festival Theatre to 4 September 2022. William Russell.

Late in the run – it ends on September 4 – but Covid and rail strikes can prevent attendance so it is one of these better late than never reviews. The latest production of this quite often revived show directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman is a total delight – it ends with the cast singing Who Could Ask for Anything More which pretty well sums things up. One reason for its success is that Stroman, who choreographed the original 1992 Broadway and 1993 London productions is she has Charlie Stemp as Bobby Childs, the mother-pecked New York banker sent to Nevada to foreclose on an old mining town theatre, who falls for the owner’s daughter and opens it with girls from Zangler’s Follies on a break between shows. He knows them because he just wants to dance.

Stemp is a hugely gifted dancer and Stroman has turned what was a song and dance show in Mike Ockrent’s production and pretty well eery other one into a dance and song one. It works, but without Stemp maybe not. The cast is as good as they come, the show girls may only number six but they fill the Chichester stage with glamour, and as Polly, the straight talking heroine, Carly Anderson is undeniably easy on the eye and sings and dances very well indeed. In 1993 when it opened at the Prince Edward and went on to run for some three years it was Ruthie Henshall in her first leading role who got the Olivier nomination. She was the star not Bobby. Other things have changed. The visiting British couple who are in Nevada to research a guidebook are one of the highlights of act two – here they are fine but they do not get the chance to show stop with Stiff Upper Lip. The dancing intervenes.

Ken Ludwig’s book takes the essence of Girl Crazy, the original Gershwin show, and with Ockrent created in effect the first juke box musical by plundering the Gershwin estate for songs that could fit in. Most do, with those that get the big dance numbers – notably I Got Rhythm – working like a dream, the serious ones – like Someone to Watch Over Me – becoming pleasant listening.

Stroman has worked wonders, Stemp is a wonder all on his own, and the assorted male inhabitants of Nevada dance up a surprising storm when called upon. Will it transfer? That will depend on an available theatre and lots of other things – Chichester has had musical hits before which did not do so or, like last year’s South Pacific, have come in for a limited run at Saddler’s Wells. But Stemp’s dazzling dancing deserves a great big West End stage – and maybe a few more leggy girls from the Follies.

Bobby Child: Charlie Stemp.

Polly Baker: Carly Anderwson.

Bela Zangler: Tom Edden.

Irene Roth:Merryl Ansah.

Lank Hawkins: Matthew Craig.

Everett Baker: Don Gallagher.

Lottie Child. Gay Soper.

Direction & Choreography: Susan Stroman.

Set Designer: Beowulff Boritt

Lighting Designer: Ken Billington.

Costume Designer: William Ivey Long.

Musical Director: Alan Williams.

Sound Designer: Kai Harada.

Production Photograph: Tristram Kenton.

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